Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
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Object of the month
Get closer to our collections with a special insight each month into one of our artefacts or works of art.Sir Joshua Reynolds self-portrait
This self-portrait was painted around 1746, shortly after Reynolds returned to Plymouth from London where he had been undertaking an apprenticeship. It's been suggested that he painted it to advertise his services as a portrait artist.
Bronze Age button and rings
This button dates from the Early Bronze Age and was excavated from a burial mound at Fernworthy, Dartmoor. Our collections also contain some intriguing solid gold rings dating from the Late Bronze Age.
'Cornish Coast' by Michael Canney
Cornwall and Devon are two of the UK's most popular tourist destinations. But this abstract oil painting from our art collection called 'Cornish Coast' isn't a typical summer image.
The Royal William Victualling Yard painting
The City Museum and Art Gallery purchased this oil painting in 1994. It's on display in our 'Plymouth: Port and Place' gallery. We were able to acquire it thanks to funding support from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the National Art Collections Fund.
Chinese Junk Model
The Chinese New Year begins this Friday (31 January) and there will be many celebrations taking place, including here in Plymouth, as communities around the world mark the start of the Year of the Horse.
Plymouth from a different perspective, the art of Dorothy Ward
Viscountess Nancy Astor (1879 to 1964) made history when she became the first female MP to take a seat in the House of Commons in 1919.
This stoneware 'Wally Bird' is part of our decorative art collection and is one of over 100 pieces made by acclaimed Victorian 'art-potters', The Martin Brothers.
Ancient Egyptian mummy coffin
We actually have two mummy coffins in our collections - but due to their age and fragility we only display one at a time. Both coffins are beautifully decorated and date from around 700BC. They originally came from Western Thebes, the capital of Ancient Egypt (now the site of modern-day Luxor).
Turner Prize Nominee painting
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery's permanent art collection received a prestigious boost recently – thanks to the acquisition of a new painting by 2013 Turner Prize nominee, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
‘The introduction of Lady Astor as the first woman Member of Parliament in 1919’, by Charles Sims
Viscountess Nancy Astor (1879 to 1964) made history when she became the first female MP to take a seat in the House of Commons in 1919.
Robert Falcon Scott Christening Cup
Captain Scott of the Antarctic was born at ‘Outlands House’, on the outskirts of Devonport, on 6 June 1868. He was christened at Stoke Damerel Church on 30 June.
These boots belonged to Red Cross Nurse Greta May Yeal.
This Bush brand music centre is of the last type to be produced at the Stoke factory in 1980.
Jubilee Cream Maker
This cream maker, made from Bakelite, steel and glass, dates from the 1930s. It belonged to the Elliott family who ran a grocer’s shop in Saltash from 1903 to 1995.
Bonnet Costume Accessory
During the Victorian era (1860-1899) it was not uncommon for ladies to wear bonnets. There were many different ones made, for many different occasions.
Sir Charles Lock Eastlake Plaque
Charles Eastlake (1793–1865), painter, scholar and arts administrator, was born in Plymouth and went on to become President of the Royal Academy and the first Director of the National Gallery, London.
This superb example of a Raeren Jug was recovered in 1971, somewhere between the Rame Peninsula and Plymouth Sound.
Keys’ Beetle Collection
This fascinating collection was created by Plymouth man, James Higman Keys. His love and enthusiasm for natural history, in particular entomology (the study of insects), led him to create a vast collection of beetles for close examination.
Cape Costume Accessory
This beautiful cape was made in the early 1930’s and is a perfect example of English fashion from this era.
This Chinese skirt made in the 1800’s is a credit to how advanced the Chinese were at embroidery. China was the first country in the world to use silk and this gave rise to many intricate clothing designs.
Boat Model from Greenland
This model kayak is an exact replica of a fully functioning kayak. Made in Greenland by the Kalaallit people, it has been created from natural resources such as drift wood.
This piece of Medieval tile is a fragment of one of the many different designs of floor tile used within the medieval Plympton Priory.
The Charter of Queen Mary
The Charter of Queen Mary is one of the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office’s oldest and most interesting items. It was most recently displayed in our ‘History Matters’ exhibition from January to March 2012.
Royal Wedding Dress from Palestine
This costume dates from the late 1800s and comes from Bethlehem, Palestine.
Bush Radio TR82C
The TR82 transistor radio was first manufactured in 1959 and proved to be immensely popular.
‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’ by Stanhope Forbes
This oil painting was created in 1885 by Stanhope Forbes, a founder member of the famous Newlyn School of Artists, and is one of (if not the most) popular artwork in our collections.
Painted Wooden Shabti Box
In order to avoid being called to service in the afterlife, many ancient Egyptians were buried with a number of small model servants called shabtis.
This tiny Bronze Age bead, which is no bigger than a cashew nut, holds clues to the local and international story of tin!
This Japanese dish is made of lacquer which is the hardened sap of a tree called ‘Rhus Vernicifera’. Lacquer was first used in China over 2,000 years ago. The Japanese began to copy Chinese designs in the 7th century, but by the 14th century had developed the original techniques and were making far more decorative items.
Gertrude Emily Benham’s Boots
These weathered leather boots belonged to Gertrude Emily Benham - a remarkable traveller and record breaking mountaineer who journeyed through the world at the beginning of the 20th Century. These boots were certainly made for walking or ‘tramping’ as she preferred to call it!
‘High Field’ by Peter Lanyon
In our South Gallery you can currently see a selection of paintings from our permanent fine art collections. The paintings were made in the South West during the 20th Century by a group of people known as the St. Ives School of Artists. Among them is High Field (1957), an abstract landscape by Peter Lanyon (1918-1964).
Totem Post (pre 1920)
This totem post model from the Northwest Coast of Canada is believed to have been carved by the Haida people, the indigenous people of the Queen Charlotte Islands; but may also show influences from the Tlingit people, a group of North American tribes that inhabited the South Eastern coast of Alaska.
Sir John St. Aubyn Micromounts
Our Sir John St. Aubyn collection consists of a herbarium (or pressed plant collection) of more than 1,000 specimens and a mineral collection of over 1,500 specimens.
The Cellar Spider (steatoda grossa)
The Cellar Spider has become a bit of a cause cèlébre in recent years. It’s been responsible for many lurid headlines in the national press where it’s sometimes called 'Britain’s own Black Widow' in stories about unsuspecting members of the public being 'savagely' bitten.
'Domestic Bliss' by Kitty Shepherd
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery’s newest addition to its decorative art collection is a slipware pot by artist Kitty Shepherd entitled Domestic Bliss.
Roman figurine of Jupiter
This small but fascinating figurine of a Roman God was discovered in the South Hams and is currently on display in our ‘Uncovered’ gallery – where it will remain until the end of July 2010.
Portrait of Lady Anne Bonfoy
This is an oil painting created in 1754 by the great Sir Joshua Reynolds and can be seen in our major ‘Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Acquisition of Genius’ exhibition.
Eighteenth Century Aragonite mineral
This piece of orange-brown Aragonite is one specimen of many which can be found inside the natural history stores of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.
Silver Freedom Box - Model of the Golden Hind
A ‘Freedom box’ is a presentation container (often elaborate) to contain a document which gives the ‘Freedom of the Town’ to the receiver.
Burmese Tiger Puppet
Made of painted wood, this wonderful puppet was donated to the Museum by remarkable explorer Gertrude Benham in 1935
A Ginkgo biloba twig from 23 September 1799
The twig inside this herbarium sheet will be 210 years old in a couple of month’s time. A herbarium is a collection of preserved plants which are usually pressed, dried and mounted on paper or card. We believe that a gentleman called Sir John St. Aubyn, 5th Baronet, collected this branch.
Clarice Cliff - sugar shaker
This sugar shaker, designed by Clarice Cliff was acquired for the Museum’s collections last year with the help of the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund.
Blue Ground Beetle (Carabus intricatus)
The Blue Ground Beetle, (Carabus intricatus), has been a rare inhabitant of the UK for many years. This magnificent looking beetle with its vivid blue, green and purple sheen makes its home in damp, rotten moss-covered wood in mature beech and oak woodland.
Chinese pleated skirt
Whilst we are not sure how or when this stunning silk skirt came into the Museum collections it is currently on display, along with other items of Chinese costume in our new 'Bringing the World to Plymouth' gallery.
Ayo or Mancala board
The Yoruba people of West Africa made this ayo gaming board. Ayo is the Yoruba name for a game of strategy played with counters. The game of ayo has many other names, such as mancala and warri. It was traditionally played throughout East and West Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
'Lockyer Street Tavern' by Beryl Cook
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is fortunate enough to have three paintings by Beryl Cook in the permanent art collections including 'Lockyer Street Tavern' featured here.
The Cattewater Gun
The Cattewater gun is a type of cannon, but as it would have fired its shots straight ahead, it is classed as a gun. It is a tube (5.5cm bore) of wrought iron set into an oak bed and held by three iron straps. It was salvaged from the Cattewater Wreck, the first ‘Protected Wreck’ in the UK (it was given this special status under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act).
Patrick Keohane’s Photograph Album
Keohane’s photograph album from the Terra Nova expedition is one of a selection of Antarctic-related objects acquired by the Museum in recent years.
Miniature Chinese Shoes
These miniature Chinese shoes, made from canvas, silk and embroidered satin, date from pre-1934 and are just two of the many hundreds of items donated to our collections by the intrepid explorer, Gertrude Benham.
20th century vintage travel posters
We successfully acquired four vintage travel posters at auction in late September 2008.
'Plymouth from Mutley' by Ambrose Bowden Johns (1776 to 1858)
Ever wondered what Mutley Plain, with its abundance of charity shops, convenience stores and watering holes, looked like in the 1800s? Well, our latest acquisition Plymouth from Mutley reveals quite an unusual angle of the city.
If you have not been into the Museum for a while you can be sure of a big surprise! Our entrance foyer is now home to a flock of flying bird skeletons, the most amazing of which is the stunning swan.
Hippo Baby (glass sculpture) by Carole Rolfe
Produced by Carole Rolfe, Hippo Baby is a fun, decorative and practical item which is currently on display in one of the Museum’s balcony cases. Despite its more sculptural form and appearance this piece can be turned upside down and used as a bowl.
Eighteenth century Salix alba herbarium sheet
The willow branch inside this herbarium sheet is celebrating its 214th year this month and is one example of many herbarium specimens that are held in the natural history department.
Napoleonic bone model guillotine
Richly carved and coloured, this model was carved by prisoners of war in the late 18th/early 19th century. It was originally designed to work - the victim loses his head when the sharp bone blade falls.
Byway in Plymouth
One of the newest acquisitions to the city’s art collection is this oil painting by Reginald Brill (1902 to 1974) entitled ‘Byway in Plymouth’.
Bronze age gold ingot
The five centimetre-long cast gold ingot is believed to date from the late Bronze Age (1150 to 750 BC). It was discovered in Wembury - part of the Museum’s archaeological collecting area - by a member of a local metal detectors’ society.
Elizabethan tester bed
By the time Elizabeth I came to the throne all but the very poorest were sleeping on some form of bed.
Moorcroft orchid bowl
One of the Museum’s newest acquisitions, the Moorcroft ‘Orchid’ Bowl’ was purchased with the assistance of £360 from the MLA and V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the Antarctic explorer is one of Plymouth’s most celebrated citizens and the museum is fortunate to hold several items relating to his life, including a set of skis.
This stunning umbrella which is currently on show in our ‘Human Cargo’ exhibition has an interesting past.
Elizabethan house tudor kitchen
This month’s object is actually a collection of objects which have recently been brought together to re-establish a 17th century kitchen within the Elizabethan House at 32 New Street, The Barbican.
The ducking stool, currently on display at the Merchant's House, is thought to have come into the museum collections in 1898 via the Corporation of Plymouth.
Egyptian mummy net
This Egyptian artefact, currently on display in one of our first floor balcony cases, came to the Museum described as a necklace.
Eddystone lighthouse salt
The Eddystone Lighthouse Salt is an outstanding example of a standing salt, measuring 19 inches and was made in 1698 by the Plymouth Goldsmith, Peter Rowe.
Constellation, 1973 by Dame Barbara Hepworth
This carrara marble sculpture was created in Dame Barbara Hepworth’s studio in St Ives, Cornwall, where she lived from 1939 until she passed away in 1975.
'English Junk' and 'Three Graces' by Lisa Cheung
'English Junk' and 'Three Graces' are recent acquisitions by the Museum thanks to grant funding from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund - a scheme that enables museums, archives and specialist libraries to develop their permanent collections.
'Plymouth, from Mount Edgcumbe' by JMW Turner
This newly acquired painting by JMW Turner is a watercolour dating from 1814 showing a view of Devonport Docks and the Hamoaze from Mount Edgcumbe.
Longcase high tide clock
This clock, which is currently on display in the foyer of the main Museum and Art Gallery was for telling the time of high tide at Plym Dock, now known as Devonport.
Post-Medieval silver-gilt dress hook
This newly acquired addition to our Treasure collection dates from the 16th Century and was found by metal detectorist, Graham Fisher at Ugborough in December 2004.